Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

New Satellite Control Center

Monday, May 4th, 2015

On May 4, 2015, Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim Jong-un visited the “Newly-built General Satellite Control Centre”.

Imagery release on KCTV helped me identify the facility on commercial satellite imagery:

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Side-view

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This is one of several large construction projects in Pyongyang that I have had my eye on for some time (I thought it was a new theater or stadium).

The new satellite control center is located in the Pothonggang District of Pyongyang. The size of the mission control room is approximately 570 square meters. Other facilities in the building, according to the DPRK media, include a revolutionary history room, auxiliary display and control room, and optical observation room, E-library, lounge, conference room, offices, dining room and bedrooms.

Based on commercial satellite imagery, construction began sometime between 2014-4-13 and 2014-7-3, meaning that if completed, construction took nearly one year.

Pothonggang-control-center-before

 Pothonggang-control-center-after

This new control center may also be the administrative home of the National Aerospace Development Administration. Construction of the new satellite control center began shortly after NADA was publicly announced last year.

If completed, this new facility raises a question about the status of the older satellite control center in Ryongsong District at the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

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Construction of new Wonsan Airport continued through winter

Friday, May 1st, 2015

New Google Earth imagery shows continued development of the new civilian airport in Wonsan. The airport is presumably intended to support the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

2015-3-26 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2015-3-26

2015-2-10 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2015-2-10

2014-12-25 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2014-12-25

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‘Donju’ step in on state construction

Monday, March 16th, 2015

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Pictured Above (Google Earth): The Sunchon Thermal Power Plant Health complex

According to the Daily NK:

The donju —North Korea’s nouveau riche — have recently been expanding their business inroads. Whereas this contingent previously forayed in wholesale/retail businesses, the burgeoning real estate market, and transportation, they are now yielding profits by increasingly partaking in state construction projects, Daily NK has learned.

“The South Pyongan Sunchon Thermal Power Plant recently built swimming pools and bathhouses by utilizing waste heat recovery, a project in which several of the donju invested,” a source in South Pyongan Province informed Daily NK on the 16th. “The authorities merely granted permission—the entire project was undertaken with the money invested by the donju.”

The recently constructed swimming pool can hold up to 200 people, creating potential for significant financial profits to be split 50/50 between the state-run power plant and the donju investors, according to the source. She noted that since last year, the Sunchon Thermal Power Plant has already reaped in significant construction funds through residual revenue from the swimming pool.

“The swimming pools, bathhouses, and steam room facilities boast modern amenities, such as restaurants and snack bars, attracting scores of patrons,” she explained. “All the waste heat from the power plant turbines was squandered until the launch of this construction project, which was based on a proposal by the donju to redirect the secondary heat in order to establish swimming pools and steam bathhouses.”

Those members of the donju with more expendable wealth have impressive business acumen, utilizing connections with executives of state-run enterprises in order to partake in various profitable ventures. “The donju are doing what the state cannot ,” the source pointed out.

She expounded on this by saying that donju business domains are rapidly expanding to encompass state construction endeavors. Beset by financial difficulties, North Korean officials are heavily reliant on the donju to implement state-run construction projects, creating a de facto “public-private partnership.” Party cadres forge a symbiotic relationship with the donju: the former receive immense kickbacks from the latter, who are more than willing to pay for the opportunity to expand their business terrains.

“The city of Sinuiju has been carrying out a large-scale national project of building apartments recently,” a different source based in the city told Daily NK. As previously reported by Daily NK, a multitude of the donju have invested in this large-scale venture.

“The donju are investing in the apartment construction under the condition of attaining a certain degree of leasing rights; in other words, they will effectively own the place and charge rent to individuals to reap in profits,” she concluded.

Read the full story here:
‘Donju’ Step In on State Construction
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2015-3-16

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Science and Technology Hall to be built in Pyongyang’s Ssuk Islet

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

science-technology-hall

Pictured Above (Google Earth: 2014-9-21): Construction site of the Ssuk Islet Scientific and Technological Study Center

According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

The Choson Sinbo, pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, reported on January 10, 2015 that a “Science and Technology Hall” is under construction on the Ssuk Islet on Pyongyang’s Taedong River. The hall is reported to serve as a “multi-functional technological service base which will conserve and maintain digitalized data of science and technological achievements made by mankind, and facilitate information sharing and exchanges through a network system.”

The newspaper stated, “The Republic with the national strategy to achieve economic revitalization through science and technology is emphasizing the need for informatization of educational materials in order to foster professionals in science and technological sector.” In also stressed, “In the Kim Jong Un Era, this project is under promotion to advance to the next level.”

Last June, Kim Jong Un visited the Ssuk Islet to provide field guidance for the “Ssuk Islet development project.” During the visit, Kim proclaimed, “The demand for scientific and technological knowledge sharing is increasing day by day,” and added, “Our Party [Workers’ Party of Korea] has decided to develop Science and Technology Hall in the Ssuk Islet to address the demands of the people.” According to the newspaper, the islet, which is situated at the gateway to Pyongyang, will be equipped with indoor and outdoor exhibition space and will “transform the scenery of the Taedong River.”

Last year, the faculty residence for the Kim Chaek University of Technology was completed (two, 46-story apartment buildings) on the riverside of the Taedong River. This high-rise, which looks afloat on the Taedong River, will be at the center of the currently-under-construction “Mirae [Future] Scientists Street.” This street will house various residential and public service buildings.

In particular, the newspaper claimed, “The economic trials suffered from the end of the 20th century with the blockade and sanctions from our adversaries has impeded the advancement of the information sector. Hence, the informatization of educational resources is one of the fastest measures to ensure the best conditions and environment for education.” It conveyed the Science and Technology Hall development in the Ssuk Islet will contribute to the efforts toward the “informatization of educational resources.”

It further elaborated, “The most pragmatic approach to meet the demand for knowledge dissemination is not to distribute compulsory literatures, teaching materials, and experimental equipment for every field and units which will require tremendous effort in terms of funds, materials and time.” Instead, the article stipulated that the more rational choice would be to “create a state-level system that can provide necessary information in digitalized data and share that information to the people.”

This can be interpreted as one of North Korea’s efforts to revitalize the economy through science and technology.

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New apartment construction in Sinuiju

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Chaeha-sinuiju-apartments

Pictured above (Google Earth: 2014-8-6): New apartment housing in Chaeha-dong, Sinuiju.

According to the Daily NK:

The real estate market in a strategic location of North Korea is heating up, with a recently new venture seeing apartment units being traded for up to 30,000 USD , the Daily NK has learned.

“Real estate development in Sinuiju City has been pretty active since two years ago,” a source based in the province told the Daily NK on Tuesday. “Starting last July or August, construction for high-rises has been underway in the Chaeha-dong neighborhood.”

The apartments in Chaeha-dong are being built on joint investments from foreign currency-earning enterprises and the donju [the new affluent middle class], according to the source. To clear the way for the lucrative project, Chaeha Market, the largest distribution market in the city, has been relocated to park grounds located in Namsang-dong.

While private property purchases remain illegal in North Korea, beleaguered by economic hardship, the state dolls out tacit consent to these endeavors, encouraging increasingly more illicit trade within the burgeoning real estate market.

In areas like Sinuiju, a main portal to and from China, there is no shortage of solvent buyers eager and willing to pay for property in the area, knowing its value will only continue to increase. The apartments taking over the Chaeha Market grounds are modern buildings of roughly 100 square meters, constructed from materials exclusively imported from China. Situated in a prime location near Sinuiju Customs House, the complex offers convenient transportation options compared to other locations, warranting the relative high prices, according to the source.

Units in the complex come in three varieties, depending on their stage of completion: “If only the framework of the apartment is put up, it is sold for 20,000 USD; if interior construction is completed, it trades for 25,000 USD; and if decorative touches are added, it fetches 30,000 USD,” she explained. According to exchange rates in North Korean markets on the 7th, 1 USD trades for roughly 8,000 KPW.

Labor for the cause consists of workers from state-run enterprises and “8.3 Workers” with special expertise. The term, “8.3 Workers,” stems from a system where workers earn money outside their state-mandated workplaces and present de facto tax payments back to their employers but also keep a portion of the profits. In this case, the “8.3 Workers” are sectioned off into “8.3 Units” of five to eight people, tasked with plastering or putting down tiles in one unit within the residential complex.

Regarding compensation for their work on the new building, “8.3 Groups” reach an agreement with the construction company, affiliated with a foreign-currency earning enterprise, on rates and then work around the clock once ground breaks on the project. “Time equals money,” as the source said, adding that one worker is estimated to receive roughly 30,000 [3.75 USd] to 50,000 KPW [6.25 USD] a day of work and is guaranteed rations and meals.

For investors, however, the project yields far more significant returns. “If an individual invests in one of these companies’ real estate construction project, the profits are divided up 3:7 and the investor receives a 30 percent share from sales of the completed property,” the source explained.

Donju invest in housing construction projects with these firms because they are unable to receive legal permission from the Ministry of Construction to engage in such personal investments. Although donju involvement in these undertakings has been known to sometimes take the form of loans offered to construction firms at lofty interest rates, this method proves less popular for the simple fact that there is less guarantee for them to receive what they are owed; needless to say, no laws exist to protect these–by official North Korean law–illicit transactions.

This fact propels most of the donju to invest in the permanence and relative stability property offers, all while skimming 30 percent of the overall profits from the sale; it is also why the source speculated this form of investment to continue to gain traction.

She added that demand for news persists on with unhindered growth. Party cadres and the donju continue to purchase completed units; in fact, many even buying two or three units using their relatives’ names to ensure future usage.

Meanwhile, residents of Chaeha-dong in Sinuiju are currently residing at the Sinuiju Medical University dorms or at homes of their relatives. The source reported that these temporarily displaced persons will be moving in, free of charge, to the newly built apartments following their completion. She noted, however, that this contingent forms a disproportionate percentage to those who have purchased units within the complex.

Read the full story here:
Real Estate Market Booming in Sinuiju
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2015-01-14

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Rising prestige of Pyongyang General University of Architecture

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The status of the Pyongyang General University of Architecture is on the rise in the Kim Jong Un era. North Korea has been paying particular attention to the university, in order to attribute this effort as the achievements of Kim Jong Un. Since Kim Jong Un’s ascension to power, several large-scale buildings have been constructed and are being propagated as a symbol of the new advancement of his regime.

On November 26, 2014, the Rodong Sinmun (the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea) praised the Pyongyang General University of Architecture, calling it an “outpost for the construction of a powerful civilization,” and covered nearly the entire fourth page with articles relating to the school’s history, education, and research achievements.

According to the Rodong Sinmun, the Pyongyang General University of Architecture is responsible for completing over two hundred architectural design plans, including the housing complex for the scientists working on North Korea’s satellite program. The university is renowned in North Korea for its unprecedented accomplishments in the research and manufacturing of state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, which it argues were possible “thanks to” the First Chairman Kim Jong Un.

Specifically, back in 2013, Kim Jong Un agreed to act as the university’s honorary president. The newspaper emphasized the great strides made under his leadership.

Kim Jong Un visited the university in 2013 and explained, “After contemplating over which university to make field guidance to, I decided to come to the Pyongyang General University of Architecture because of its prominence and importance in building a highly civilized socialist society.”

The Pyongyang General University of Architecture is unique in that it is the only university that has First Chairman Kim as its honorary president, indicating his great interest in the field of architecture.

The university, which was founded in October 1953 as the University of Construction, had its name changed to the University of Architecture and Building Materials in 1970, and then to the Pyongyang University of Architecture and Building Materials in 1997. The university has seen a sharp rise in its status since the start of the Kim Jong Un regime.

The university had its status elevated from a college to a full-fledged university in November 2010, directly after Kim Jong Un formally appeared as the successor to the Kim Jong Il regime. The university, originally named as “The Pyongyang University of Architecture and Building Materials,” received its current name from First Chairman Kim Jong Un in December 2012.

Alongside the change in status of the university, the status of its graduates, including Ma Won Chun, the Director of the National Defense Commission (NDC) Design Department, have also increased accordingly.

Previously, on November 18th, the Rodong Sinmun enumerated the major large-scale architectural projects completed during the first three years of the Kim Jong Un regime and attributed the successes to have resulted from Kim’s love of the people.

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New central bank building appears completed (on the outside)

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Ray Cunningham took this picture of the DPRK’s new Central Bank headquarters in September 2014:

Central-bank-Cunningham-2014-9-13

The outside of the building appears nearly completed. Still no mention in the DPRK’s official media.

I wrote an article about the project for NK News back in 2013.

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New statues at Security University of the DPRK (MSS University)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

MSS-Uni-Statues-2014-11-19

Pictured above: Security University of the DPRK (formerly “University of KPA Unit 10215″) in Mangyongdae District (39.044446°, 125.633676°)

KCNA has announced the unveiling of new statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at the “Security University of the DPRK”. The bases for these new statues can be seen in the satellite imagery, but the statues themselves can be seen in the official photos below:

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According to the article:

Present there were Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Won Hong, Jo Yon Jun, and commanding officers of the Ministry of State Security, officials of security organs at various levels and teachers, students and employees of the university and their families and officials and those of meritorious services of units which contributed to erecting the statues.

Kim Jong-il last visited this facility on May 5, 2009. Kim Jong-un has yet to make an official visit.

univ-of-KPA-unit-10125

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Kim Jung Un Stresses Protecting National Heritage

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The DPRK leader Kim Jong Un recently emphasized the work of national heritage protection through the announcement of Nojak. In the DPRK vernacular, Nojak means the immortal writing of the highest leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

In October 30, DPRK’s Chosun Central News Agency reported that on October 24, the First Chairman Kim Jong Un made a statement on “National Heritage Protection Work as a Patriotic Business that Brings Honor to the Heritage and History of Our Nation,” together with members of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, in celebration of the 20th anniversary (October 29) of field guidance at the tomb of Tangun in Pyongyang by Eternal Chairman Kim Jong Il.

During the discourse, First Chairman Kim Jong Un stressed that “it is our strong will to flourish as a powerful nation which has inherited a glorious culture with a long history of being a universally civilized country.”

He went on to say, “by well managing the preservation of the remains and relics of the old capital city of Pyongyang and Kaesong, further interest should be turned in preserving the remains that have meaning as a national treasure in other suburban areas.” He also pointed out that “we need to fight hard the tendency of Dadaism, which refuses the superiority of one’s country and not managing the preservation of relics, which leads to the phenomenon of damaging them.”

He also added, “It is important to preserve the original form and not destroy the ecological environment of the scenic spots” and also stressed that “it is important to set up a thorough countermeasure so that the scenic spot will not be destroyed or polluted because of wastewater and factory pollution, pests and underground development of resources, and forest fires.”

Kim Jung Un also said “parts of the city and districts have not turned their interest in managing the preservation of historical remains; therefore, precious historical relics have been stolen or destroyed.” He further pointed out that “there has been cases where the ecological environment had been destroyed and the scenic beauty had vanished at the scenic spot.”

“Cabinet, relevant ministries and central organizations should turn their interest to historical remains and museums where maintenance and construction should be focused at these scenic spots so that facilities, materials, and funds that are demanded can be supported with responsibility.” He also proposed a solution: “through tourism and observation of historical remains and scenic spots, a portion of money that had been earned should be turned into the fund for protecting the ethnic heritage so that it can be managed autonomously.”

He went on to stress that “at the Guidance Bureau for the Preservation of National Heritage, in order to designate the natural heritage and historical monuments of the people at the UNESCO World Heritage, exchange business with other countries and the UN has been underway, especially in strengthening academic exchanges related to national cultural heritage, and especially with the compatriots of the South and overseas.”

Furthermore, he stated that the “Complex of Koguryo Tombs and historical relics at Kaesong City had been designated as a World Heritage; however, there needs to be continuous work in finding more of our country’s outstanding material heritage, non-material heritage, and natural heritage to be registered at the UNESCO World Heritage.”

In the discourse, Kim Jung Un stated that “national heritage work is a patriotic business which can lift up the country and a way to hold on to the tradition and history of the country.” He added that the “principle of identity, principle of history and scientific history are the basic principles that need to be consistently followed in order to develop and protect the national cultural heritage.”

The recent talk that has constantly stressed national heritage protection work by the Kim Jung Un regime can be seen as a move to infuse pride in the people for the history and culture of the country and to strengthen the solidarity of the people.

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North Koreans working on Qatar construction projects

Friday, November 7th, 2014

According to The Guardian:

In the sprawling construction zone that will eventually become Qatar’s gleaming $45bn (£28bn) Lusail City, where the 2022 World Cup final will be held, four construction sites are said to be using North Korean workers, although there is no suggestion they are involved in building World Cup stadiums.

On one site, North Koreans battled biting desert sands and searing heat to construct a luxury residential tower. They laboured on as day turned to night, long after workers from other nationalities had left the site.

One North Korean worker helping to build the high-rise said: “People like us don’t usually get paid. The money does not come to the person directly. It’s nothing to do with me, it’s the [North Korean recruitment] company’s business.”

A project manager of the lavish development said the workers “don’t have a single rial themselves” and “borrow money from us if they need small things like cigarettes”.

“The descriptions of the conditions North Korean workers endure in Qatar – abuse of vulnerability, withholding of wages and excessive overtime – are highly indicative of state-sponsored trafficking for forced labour,” a modern form of slavery, said Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International.

Sources in Qatar estimate there may be as many as 3,000 North Koreans working on projects across the emirate. They are part of an army of workers the North Korean regime exports around the world to bring in much-needed foreign currency. According to defectors’ groups, there may be as many as 65,000 North Koreans abroad, mainly working in Russia, China, Mongolia and the Middle East.

Kim Joo-il, a former army officer who escaped North Korea in 2005, estimates that the Pyongyang government typically takes 70% of the total salary of workers abroad, and that after all “fees”, notionally for food and accommodation, have been paid, workers will be left with only 10% of their salary.

Two employees of state-run North Korean recruitment firms operating in Qatar admitted that their workers do not receive their salaries in person, but insisted a proportion of their wages are sent back to the workers’ families in North Korea.

A spokesperson from the ministry of labour and social affairs said: “We take all issues around worker payment extremely seriously. There are currently 2,800 North Korean guest workers registered in Qatar and we have no recorded complaints about their payment or treatment. Qatar is determined to continually improve labour conditions for all who work in the country, and will continue to work with NGOs, businesses and other governments to achieve this.”

North Koreans are alleged to have participated in construction of facilities at South Africa’s World Cup as well.

Here are previous posts involving Qatar.

You can read the full story here:
North Koreans working as ‘state-sponsored slaves’ in Qatar
The Guardian
2014-11-7

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